December 22, 1985 – Dennes Boon or “D” Boon (Minutemen) was born on April 1, 1958 in San Pedro, California and was best known as the guitarist and vocalist of the American punk rock trio Minutemen. In 1985 he was killed in a traffic crash at the age of 27.
His father, a navy veteran, worked installing radios in Buick cars, and the Boons lived in former World War II barracks that had been converted into public housing. As a teenager, Boon began painting and signed his works “D. Boon”, partly because “D” was his slang for cannabis, partly after Daniel Boone, but mostly because it was similar to E. Bloom, Blue Öyster Cult’s vocalist and guitarist.
Boon formed Minutemen in January 1980 with childhood friend Mike Watt on bass, from their previous band, The Reactionaries, later adding former Reactionaries drummer George Hurley. Their best known album was Double Nickels on the Dime.
The Minutemen continued until December 22, 1985, when Boon was killed in a van accident in the Arizona desert on Interstate 10. Because he had been sick with fever, Boon was lying down in the rear of the van without a seatbelt when the van ran off the road. Boon was thrown out the back door of the van and died instantly from a broken neck. He was 27 years old. The band immediately dissolved, though Watt and Hurley would form the band Firehose soon after. The live album Ballot Result was released in 1987, two years after Boon’s death.
Boon’s guitar style was very distinctive; he rarely used distortion and frequently set the equalization on his amplifier so that only the treble frequencies were heard – the bass and midrange frequencies would be turned off completely. His style had a heavy funk/blues feel which was very different from other hardcore punk bands in the 80s.
Boon is responsible for the writing and composition of the Minutemen’s most anthemic songs (in contrast to Watt’s stream of consciousness lyrics), including “This Ain’t No Picnic“, “Corona”, “The Price of Paradise,” and “Courage.” A lifelong artist, Boon also created drawings or paintings for the Minutemen releases Joy, The Punch Line, The Politics of Time, Project: Mersh and 3-Way Tie (For Last).
Since the first Firehose album, Mike Watt has dedicated every record he has worked on – be it Firehose, solo, or otherwise – to D. Boon’s memory. A song on Watt’s semi-autobiographical 1997 album Contemplating the Engine Room, “The Boilerman”, is about D. Boon; on the recording itself, guitarist Nels Cline plays one of Boon’s last Telecaster guitars, which Watt now owns. Watt also mentions his fallen friend in Firehose’s “Disciples of the 3-Way” (Mr. Machinery Operator) and his own “Burstedman” (The Secondman’s Middle Stand).
Boon has been paid tribute by American alternative band Stigmata-A-Go-Go with the song “D. Boon”, from their 1994 album It’s All True, Uncle Tupelo with a different song “D. Boon” from their 1991 album Still Feel Gone, and Centro-matic’s song “D.Boon-Free (A Ninth Grade Crime)” off “The Static Vs. The Strings Vol. 1”. His story is also told in the documentary We Jam Econo.
In 2003, former D. Boon roommate Richard Derrick released the CD D. Boon And Friends, a collection of jam session tapes he recorded with D. Boon, and rare Boon solo performances, as the first release on his Box-O-Plenty Records label. Mike Watt authorized the release and provided technical assistance and liner notes.
He is #89 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time: David Fricke’s Picks.
In his review of the band’s last album, music Critic Robert Christgau described the death of Boon as: “a rock death that has for wasted potential Lennon and Hendrix for company”, finishing with: “After seven fairly amazing years he was just getting started. Shit, shit, shit”.